Monday, January 11, 2010

Book Review of "Alcohol Today" by R. L. Sumner

Following is a Book Review by Dr. R. L. Sumner, editor of The Biblical Evangelist.

Alcohol Today: Abstinence in an Age of Indulgence, by Peter Lumpkins; Hannibal Books, Garland, TX; 3 Parts, 12 Chapters, 172 pages; $14.95, Paper.

This book is as anti-social drinking as you can get. No one is going to read this one and misunderstand what the author is saying. [Apparent reference to Bob Jones University claiming the “pro-moderate drinking" book by one of their professors was misunderstood. Sumner unfavorably reviewed it. BJU has since withdrawn the book. -DRB] (In short, there is absolutely no chance of him being confused as advocating social drinking!) He starts by explaining why he is writing (alcohol destroys), goes on to show how a once strong church (almost every denomination) that opposed booze so strongly is now endorsing ‘social’ drinking, and then examines the Prohibition era. And that is just Part One.

Incidentally note this comment on Prohibition: “The think-tank behind Prohibition was not filled with Bubbas from south Georgia. Instead university presidents, seminary professors, medical professionals, linguists, Classics scholars, and New Testament and Old Testament theologians and scholars alike argued tirelessly in professional journals, books, pamphlets, and speeches not only the personal virtue of abstaining from intoxicating beverages but also the public vice of manufacturing, distributing, selling, and consuming alcoholic beverages for social and recreational purposes…” That is not exactly how the anti-prohibitionists of today describe those days, is it?

By the way, former U.S. Health & Welfare Secretary Joseph Califano, not exactly a Baptist fundamentalist (he was a Roman Catholic) described it: “During prohibition, admission to mental health institutions for alcoholic psychosis dropped 60 percent, arrests for drunk and disorderly conduct went down 50 percent, welfare agencies reported significant declines in cases due to alcohol-related family problems, and the death rate from impure alcohol did not rise. Nor did Prohibition generate a crime wave. Homicide increased at a higher rate between 1900 and 1920 than during Prohibition, and organized crime was well established in the cities before 1920.” The booze boys have been lying to you about that period haven’t they?

This is followed by five chapters (Part Two) giving five positions on consuming intoxicants: hedonism (pleasure; if it feels good, do it) - as the author puts it, “the logical deduction of culture without Christ;” think before you drink (the popular reference of alcohol manufacturers, answered by reference to what the inerrant Word of God says on the subject, both directly and indirectly); the Christian moral worldview (what God has revealed in His Word, His revelation about righteousness, which is absolute); the wisdom view (which can be argued compellingly, perhaps, but offers no moral instruction for abstinence); and, total abstinence (God’s idea; nowhere does moderation appear in Scripture for anything wrong as a moral principle). The latter point includes a discussion of the medical use of alcohol (such, for example, as in cough syrup) and drinking alcoholic content for pleasure (admittedly, there is not much pleasure in a tablespoon of ugly tasting cough syrup). Obviously, some of these views overlap, such as two and four and three and five.

Part Three is the main part of the volume: what the Bible says about drink, a special look at the Old Testament teaching, and a complete chapter on John 2 and the wine at the wedding (we loved his subtitle for this chapter: Liberating Jesus as the Moderationist Model).

The volume is loaded with excellent quotes. For example: “…to tell a young person to go ahead and drink is like telling a fox, after you’ve locked him in the henhouse, he can touch the chickens but cannot taste the chickens.” While moderationists try to see a happy buzz in God’s comments about the blessing in wine (for example in Psalm 104), Lumpkins notes: “…assuming that alcohol enhances joy in any genuine biblical sense - is a mistake. In fact, alcohol is a depressant; it dulls the senses and therefore diminishes what could be called a conscious enjoyment of the provision, despite any tipsy feeling to the contrary” (emphasis added).

Bringing the second law of thermodynamics into it, the author notes about crushed grapes: “Fermenting wine produces the horrid, foul odor of rot and decay - a particularly formidable challenge the ancients combated.” Great care had to be taken to keep each batch from ending up as sour vinegar, unfit for consumption! “Thanking God for intoxicating beverages is like thanking God for molded bread.” And he quotes the 19th century scholar J. J. Owen as saying any claim our Lord drank any form of intoxicating wine as “malicious libel upon His character.” Amen!

In the back of the book, listed as Appendices, the author has a study on pertinent annotated texts (four from the OT and two from the NT), a Glossary, and Historical References (a dozen, including Ovid, Aristotle, Nicander, Pliny and Cato the Elder). There is also a 6-page listing of works cited.

The Foreword is by Dr. Jerry Vines, who gives a ringing endorsement. Other commendations come from Drs. Paige Patterson, O. S. Hawkins, Hayes Wicker, Jack Graham, Junior Hill and other prominent Christian leaders.

This is a great book, one we can completely endorse. In fact, if you don’t get it you will be making a major mistake, in our judgment.

-by R. L. Sumner, The Biblical Evangelist, January/February, 2010. [For a free subscription (they do, however, accept donations!) to The Biblical Evangelist see the icon in the right margin of this blog.]

Alcohol Today by Peter Lumpkins can be obtained directly from Hannibal Books,, or ordered from any bookstore. Order it today!

-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, January 11, AD 2010.

Related Articles at Gulf Coast Pastor Articles (Labels) under "Alcohol" in lower right hand margin.


  1. David,

    Thanks much for publishing this review. Dr. Sumner was very generous in his assessment of my work.

    Grace always.

    With that, I am...

  2. You're welcome, Peter.

    "Alcohol Today" is a great book that should be read by every pastor, youth minister, and seminary professor. I pray this review gets wide distribution. Of course it already has in "The Biblical Evangelist."
    David R. Brumbelow

  3. Fantastic review. Love the clarity and soundness of Dr. Sumner's critique. Glad you published this, David. selahV

  4. SelahV,
    Thanks. Dr. Sumner does have a unique, plain, and interesting way of writing. When you get his paper and start reading, it is difficult to put down.
    David R. Brumbelow


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